Exploring By Automobile

auto trip

On the road again… –Willie Nelson
There are few things as iconic in American culture as the road trip. Thelma and Louise, Jake and Elwood, Smokey and the Bandit, the Clark Griswald and his family – all of these characters are indelibly fixed in our minds because they set out for adventure on an epic road trip.

Our nation is so expansive that we have many distinct environments we can visit. Each state has its own natural wonders and scenic highways, making the difficult to decide where to travel to next. Do we want to go skiing in the mountains, swimming in the ocean, hiking in a national forest, or fishing in a lake? Whatever choice you make, it will include a road trip to get there.

Hit The Highway

Our Interstate Highway System was launched in the 1950’s, as a way to connect our country together for commerce, travel, and national defense. As a result of over $400 billion in infrastructure investment, we have the ability to hop in our cars and move quickly across our country to the destinations of our choosing.

Of course, highway travel is often not the most scenic way to travel. But if your goal is to get to a destination quickly – rather than to take a leisurely drive just for the view – then the interstate highways are the fastest way to get where you are going.

Scenic Road Trips

If time is less of a factor in your travel plans, taking a slower ride along a scenic route will definitely enhance the quality of your trip. Top off your travel mug, roll down your window, make sure your¬†tires have enough tread (check out our lists of the best all terrain tires and best all season tires), your windshield wipers are in good order, and drive the winding back roads of the country. Yes, it won’t be the fastest way to your destination. But as every epic road trip movie teaches us – the joy is in the journey.

Finding Your Way

Scenic Highways & Byways Given the vast number of miles of roads in our country, it is inevitable that some of them are always under construction. Slow traffic, one-lane roads, and detours are an intrinsic part of any trip by car.

In days past that presented more of a challenge. Meticulous travel plans through unfamiliar areas could be thwarted by unexpected construction or an accident. Travelers would find themselves scrambling to decode their location on a map from the glove box, and hastily trying to reroute themselves to get back on course.

Thankfully, technology has advanced in ways that make unexpected travel problems easy to handle. The advent of the GPS has made paper maps mostly a thing of the past, with cars and phones now coming with location systems built right in.

Connections to the Internet bring real-time construction, traffic, and accident reports right into your vehicle. And computer software from Google and Garmin can talk you around them – literally – without you missing a beat.

Pack For Pleasure

Every traveler has their own special collection of items they want on hand during a trip. But there are some common items that everyone should keep in the car before they set out on the highway for adventure. Here are some of the common ones:

  • Sunglasses – Driving with the sun in your eyes is no fun, and can be dangerous. Keeping a cheap pare of shades in the car can be a lifesaver.
  • Tire Pump – If you do a lot of driving, getting a flat tire is almost inevitable. Having a good portable air compressor for cars will be a lifesaver in these situations.
  • Water – Packing a few bottles of water with you will keep you from thirst, and also help keep you alert as you drive.
  • Advil – Driving long distances or through traffic can be hectic. Keeping an over-the-counter pain reliever in your pack can help you cope with a travel headache.
  • Travel Mug – There is nothing worse than dumping a drink in your lap, or having it slop around your car when you hit a bump. A good travel mug will keep your beverages where and the temperature you want.
  • Food Storage – Whether you are packing lunch for the daily grind or traveling across the country, having an insulated lunch box to keep food the correct temperature is always a good idea.
  • Paperwork – It is always prudent to make sure you have your license, registration, and proof of insurance with you before you leave on a trip. Forgetting them can be problematic and costly.
  • Flashlight – Looking under your seat or under the hood of your car can be a hassle in the dark. Keeping a cheap LED flashlight on hand is a smart investment.
  • Charger Cables – Running out of juice on the road can be a problem. GPS apps are notorious battery drainers, so making sure you have a charger cable and adapter with you can keep your phone working even if your trip goes longer than expected.
  • Battery Charger – There is nothing worse than realizing that you left your lights on when your car won’t start. Make sure a dead battery never ruins your road trip by taking a car battery charger along with you.
  • Toilet Paper – Because you never know when mother nature will strike, having a roll in a zip lock bag in the car will be worth its weight in gold in case of emergency.
  • First Aid Kit – This is another item that should be standard in every vehicle. You don’t need to be a rolling hospital, but band-aids and a few other medical supplies are prudent gear for every trip.
  • Travel Blanket – Whether you need to catch a few winks at a rest area, or just need something to between you and the grass for a picnic stop, a small blanket is a handy item to pack.
  • Travel Pillow – A small cushion for your noggin will let you or your passengers rest easy without your head against the glass. A car lumbar support cushion is another option for extra comfort.
  • Wet Wipes – Sticky food and spilled drinks are no fun in a car. A small pack of wet wipes, or individually packed wet naps are an easy way to clean your fingers and the dash of your car.
  • Plastic Bags – Having a few different types of plastic bags tucked away in the car can solve a variety of problems. Used grocery bags are great for collecting trash, picking up after a pet, or sealing off a dirty diaper. Zip lock bags are very handy for keeping papers and other items dry and protected. A garbage bag is great for collecting dirty trip laundry and keeping it separate from your clean clothes.
  • Air Freshener – Being packed in a car full of people for hours can result in a not so pleasant smelling vehicle. Although rolling down the window may solve this problem, there are times when you won’t be able to do this because of weather. The solution is having a good car essential oil diffuser.
  • Multi-tool – Packing a Swiss knife or multi-tool in your vehicle can prepare you for many unexpected tasks and repairs that crop up during a trip.
  • Vacuum – If you travel with your dogs or cats, you will definitely need a good car vacuum for pet hair.
  • Car Bike Rack – If you are an avid biker, you should consider investing in a good car bike rack to hold your bicycles.

Whether you are taking your car on a short trip or a long one, having a few supplies with you can make the difference between a road trip you’ll always remember, and one you wish you could forget. Having a good car emergency kit is a smart idea as it has almost anything you would need in any situation.

Also, it is wise to make sure everything is in working order on your vehicle before setting out on a trip. Get rid of any rust with a good rust converter, make sure all fluids are topped off, and check that your vehicle’s AC is working before striking out on your summer excursion.